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 Posted:   Oct 1, 2014 - 7:22 PM   
 By:   johnjohnson   (Member)

The film captures a performance by the actor William Gillette, who helped popularize the famed detective

A 1916 silent movie about Sherlock Holmes, long thought to be lost, has been discovered by the Cinematheque Francaise, which has joined with the San Francisco Film Festival to create a digital restoration. The restored film will be unveiled in Europe at the Cinamatheque Francais’ festival of film restoration in Paris in January, and its American premiere will take place at the San Francisco Silent Film festival in May, the SFSFF announced Wednesday.

Sherlock Holmes, directed by Arthur Berthelet and produced by the Essanay Studios in Chicago, starred William Gillette, an American actor and playwright popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who frequently portrayed Holmes on stage, right down to the detective’s famous deerstalker cap. He’s credited with helping to popularize one of Holmes’ signature lines by saying to Holmes’ sidekick Dr. Watson, “Oh, this is elementary, my dear fellow.” By the time the film was shot, Gillette was considered the leading interpreter of Holmes on stage.

The newly-discovered Essanay production is the only surviving example of Gillette’s performance as Holmes and is also the only film Gillette ever made. It retains the famous set pieces in Gillette’s play about Holmes — the detective’s encounter with Professor Moriarty, his escape from the Stepney Gas Chamber, and his tour-de-force deductions — and it illustrates how Gillette wove bits from Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories ranging from “A Scandal in Bohemia” to “The Final Problem,” into the play.

“At last we get to see for ourselves the actor who kept the first generation of Sherlockians spellbound. We can also see where the future Holmeses—Rathbone, Brett, Cumberbatch, and the rest—come from. As far as Holmes is concerned, there’s not an actor dead or alive who hasn’t consciously or intuitively played off Gillette,” Russell Merritt, the supervising editor of the restoration project and a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, said.

The version of the film that was discovered in the vaults of the Cinematheque Francais is a nitrate dupe negative, originally assembled for French distribution that contains French titles and color annotations. Since Essanay’s domestic releases were usually in black and white, the colors in this case were probably intended for French distribution.

The digital restoration that the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the Cinémathèque Française have begun, is the third partnership between the two organizations and has been made possible with the support of private individuals from the United States and the U.K.

Film restorer and SFSFF board president Robert Byrne said, “It’s an amazing privilege to work with these reels that have been lost for generations. William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes has ranked among the holy grails of lost film and my first glimpse of the footage confirms Gillette’s magnetism. Audiences are going to be blown away when they see the real Sherlock Holmes on screen for the first time.”

 Posted:   Oct 1, 2014 - 9:41 PM   
 By:   Richard-W   (Member)

Thanks for posting this.

I hope it comes to blu-ray soon, real soon.

I can't wait to see William Gillette play Holmes.

I believe a sound recording of Gillette's voice-as-Holmes from the early 1930s exists somewhere.

... as an aside, I saw the 1970s revival of Gillette's play on Broadway. It was elaborately produced, right down to the fog which filled the auditorium so that when the curtain raised and oil lamps appeared on stage, we were in the fog of London with Mr. Holmes.

John Wood, a splendid English actor who had played Holmes in the film A STUDY IN TERROR (1965), stood in for Frank Langella that night. Langella was the star of the play. His name was above the title on the marquee but he rarely showed up for his Dracula and Sherlock Holmes roles. It was a good thing, too, because Wood was brilliant as Holmes. He was in total control of his audience. They loved him and did not hesitate to show it.

 Posted:   Oct 1, 2014 - 10:26 PM   
 By:   manderley   (Member)

It's fascinating that this film, along with other previously lost things like BARDELYS THE MAGNIFICENT, Lon Chaney's THE UNKNOWN, and the missing METROPOLIS footage have recently been found.

But, with film re-discoveries and restorations in full-swing for the last 50 or-so-years, isn't it amazing that they "found" this long-lost film right where it should have been---in a film archival vault!!!!!

It makes one wonder if the wrong people are looking for these things, or if they don't know what they're looking for, or, after 50 years, they still don't know the contents of every can and box in their libraries and haven't bothered to find out, write it down, and enter it on modern computer inventory listings.

To actually understand your vault holdings you need to pull each-and-every can and box, wind through the film inside, identify it, make written notations of what you have, the footage, the preservation status, and then make sure the information is coded and verified and carefully identified on the leaders, cans, and boxes before you put them away again.

Although some archivists are truly "hands-on"---sometimes I wonder if the upper executives have ever spent time in a film vault or are just in their executive positions marking time and waiting for a promotion to the next senior executive position.

While there are always things which turn up in barns or dumps or under icebergs, there is no excuse for lost films turning up in industry-related storage holding facilities after this many years.

 Posted:   Oct 1, 2014 - 11:46 PM   
 By:   BillCarson   (Member)

manderley is right. You either have an archive or you have an dusty basement piled with film cans that nobody has ever bothered to look at.

Come along Watson theres a healthy chunk of mystery yet to be solved!!

 Posted:   May 15, 2015 - 3:50 PM   
 By:   johnjohnson   (Member)

Release date 20th October.

In commemoration of the 99th anniversary of the film s original release, Flicker Alley along with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and la Cinémathèque française is proud to present the Blu-ray/DVD premiere of one of the holy grails of lost films: William Gillette s Sherlock Holmes.
Long considered lost until a complete dupe negative was identified in the vaults of la Cinémathèque française last year, this William Gillette film is a vital missing link in the history of Sherlock Holmes on screen. By the time it was produced at Essanay Studios in 1916, Gillette had been established as the world s foremost interpreter of Holmes on stage having played him approximately 1300 times since his 1899 debut. This newly-restored edition, thanks to the monumental efforts of both the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and la Cinémathèque française, represents the sole surviving appearance of Gillette s Holmes on film. Presented with optional French and English intertitles and an original score composed and performed by Neil Brand, Guenter Buchwald, and Frank Bockius, Flicker Alley is honored to bring Sherlock Holmes onto Blu-ray and DVD for the first time ever.

The film faithfully retains the play s famous set pieces Holmes s encounter with Professor Moriarty, his daring escape from the Stepney Gas Chamber, and the tour-de-force deductions. It also illustrates how Gillette, who wrote the adaptation himself, wove bits from Conan Doyle s stories ranging from A Scandal in Bohemia to The Final Problem, into an original, innovative mystery play.

Film restorer Robert Byrne says, It s an amazing privilege to work with these reels that have been lost for generations. William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes has ranked among the holy grails of lost film and my first glimpse of the footage confirms Gillette's magnetism. Audiences are going to be blown away when they see the original Sherlock Holmes on screen for the first time.

Bonus Materials Include:

- Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900): Courtesy of the Library of Congress and presented in HD, this is the earliest known film to feature the character of Sherlock Holmes.
- A Canine Sherlock (1912): From the EYE Film Institute, the film stars Spot the Dog as the titular character.
- Più forte che Sherlock Holmes (1913): Also from the EYE Film Institute, this entertaining Italian trick-film owes as much to Méliès as it does Doyle.
- HD transfers from the Fox Movietone Collection: Interview with Arthur Conan Doyle and outtakes from a 1930 broadcast with William Gillette showing off his amateur railroad (University of South Carolina).
- A PDF manuscript of the 1899 Sherlock Holmes play by William Gillette.
- A PDF of the original contract between William Gillette and the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company.
- A booklet featuring images from the film and information about the restoration project.

 Posted:   Jan 29, 2018 - 5:44 AM   
 By:   farmhouse   (Member)

Flicker Alley released SHERLOCK HOLMES (1916) on DVD/BluRay with a quartet score by my friend and colleague Neil Brand. In 2016 the Odessa International Film Festival commissioned an orchestral score from me. It was premiered on the Potemkin stairs on July 16, 2016 by the orchestra of the Odessa Opera and Ballet, conducted by Igor Shavruk. There is a recording available, please contact me.

For more information about my silent film scores, visit

My videography includes dozens of features and about 150 shorts on Criterion, Kino, Milestone, Flicker Alley, Image, Lobster, and other labels.

 Posted:   Feb 2, 2018 - 1:19 PM   
 By:   Sean Nethery   (Member)

....John Wood, a splendid English actor who had played Holmes in the film A STUDY IN TERROR (1965), stood in for Frank Langella that night....

Four-years-later correction, which sadly has nothing otherwise to do with this interesting thread.

It was John Neville who played Holmes in A Study in Terror.

Doesn't he look fabulous?

Well, so does John Wood in the production (I assume) Richard W saw.

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